The publisher moves from fact to fiction

by Kelvin Smith

There are real people in Ian McEwan’s Sweet Tooth.  Martin Amis and Ian Hamilton have walk-on parts, and Tom Maschler plays an instrumental role.  He publishes – “with the precision of a moon landing” – Tom Haley’s From the Somerset Levels, the MI5-funded author’s prize-winning first novel.

“The idea was to meet the deadline for the Jane Austen Prize for Fiction, easily as prestigious as the new-fangled Booker.  The chances of making it onto the shortlist were remote but it appeared that Maschler was telling everyone about his new author, and the fact that the book was being raced into print specially for the judging panel had already been mentioned in the newspapers. This was how you got a book talked about.”

So this is no fictional publisher, but McEwan’s early mentor, given a valedictory role in a novel that did not win the 2012 Man Booker.   How McEwan must wish that Maschler was still in charge at Cape.

Ian McEwan, Sweet Tooth, 2012